(A discussion with Alex Majlaton, Affinity expert, helped me to write this article.)
Call it Robots or Affinity—since the introduction of Modern, the variants haven’t changed much, and whatever name you give it, they all mean the same thing.
The deck stayed the same for a little while, until Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, where I ended up myself playing Affinity with 4 Thoughtcast to fight the expected field of Jund.
Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011
Galvanic Blast or Thoughtcast?
Thoughtcast started making appearances because Modern was getting more grindy with the upcoming domination of BGx decks. Combo was almost off of the map (if you compare to now), which led to the conclusion that Robots didn’t need to be as fast as possible anymore, consistency and resiliency were now what you wanted to achieve.
The Galvanic Blast builds tend to be hybrids of the blue version, they don’t go as deep as they did before with Fling and Atog. You want Blasts when the format is more combo based as they can go to the face, yet, more importantly, when most of the combos are creature-based, Galvanic Blast gives you the opportunity to disrupt them.
From time to time you see versions playing both, but Affinity enthusiast Alex Majlaton insists that no one should play more than 6 colored spells.
All in all, it’s just a question of speed vs. resilience, while not harming the engine of the deck.
Speed = Master of Etherium, Steel Overseer, and Galvanic Blast
Resilience = Etched Champion and Thoughtcast
Dealing with Hate
Between Stony Silence, Shatterstorm, Creeping Corrosion, Kataki, War’s Wage, Hurkyl’s Recall, and Ancient Grudge it can be hard to navigate through a tournament, especially when every deck can add a dedicated hate card against you if they are willing to lose versatility.
Stony Silence is the hardest to beat—you need counters or discard spells in the early game because casting something like Wear // Tear requires Glimmervoid once the enchantment has resolved. Don’t be afraid to keep hands that are insane but lose to it.
Ancient Grudge and Kolaghan’s Command can be beat with diversion. Play your crappy cards that you don’t care as much about, and save the good cards for later. Spellskite is great against Kolaghan’s Command, because unlike Electrolyze, you can redirect both targets and that’s why it has gone up in main-deck popularity these days.
Shatterstorm, Creeping Corrosion, Vandalblast, and Fracturing Gust ask to be raced. It isn’t the worst position, since 4 and 5 mana against Affinity can be too slow. If your game is too slow and they’re about to board wipe you, find a way to get as much damage in as possible, then put counters on a Nexus, the turn prior to the expected Shatterstorm.
Hurkyl’s Recall is among the hardest to beat since its instant speed. Pressure them quickly so that they have to burn it without a big enough board presence to threaten you back, but be careful—if they do it on your turn, try to spend as little mana as possible before combat so that you can re-deploy.
Besides moving Thoughtcast, Galvanic Blast, Etched Champion, and Spellskite, not much changes these days, it really is about finding the best configuration for the right tournament.
The winner of the recent GP Singapore did a good job of tweaking to adapt to the rising Grixis decks, especially Grixis Twin, according to Alex.
Etched Champion takes care of Grixis’s grindy plan while Galvanic Blast and Spellskite stop them from combo’ing.
Mr. Majlaton says that Hangarback Walker could see play if you wanted to add more grindy cards to your 75. In my own opinion, I think it’s definitely sweet, especially with Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer in the deck, but in the end, I doubt it’s better than Etched Champion and Thoughtcast.
General Tips from the Master Himself
- Even though Affinity is technically an aggro deck, it’s not always a good idea to be relentlessly aggressive with it. Be smart with your permanents because all your margins are razor-thin and you often need every card to win.
- A lot of your turn-3 and turn-4 kills are via Inkmoth Nexus, and they aren’t always in one shot. Sometimes the percentage play is to make a 5/5 Inkmoth and try to win in 2 turns, hoping to dodge a removal spell for just one turn.
- It’s not always good to put all of your permanents in play immediately. A lot of the time, your opponent will think that because you haven’t played Ravager yet, you haven’t drawn one, and will let their guard down so you can surprise them with it and they’ll think you topdecked it. Same goes for Plating.
- As I said earlier, preserving the engine of the deck is essential. This is also true when sideboarding, you can’t bring too many cards in, which leaves you no choice of having really versatile cards.
- Galvanic Blast may seem good against control as reach, but the fact is that they try to avoid taking any damage at all so it will just rot in your hand while you wish it was an actual threat.
- Thoughtcast is generally bad too since you don’t want to durdle around too much, but take out all your Etched Champions first.
- Steel Overseer usually gets boarded out against white decks since they are likely to have Stony Silence.
Special thanks to Alex Majlaton for making this article ten times more interesting!